Monday, August 27, 2007

Instant Film School: Ratings Bored

Today, we are going to dive straight into the toxic waters of film studies by reviewing the film ratings system, what it means, how ratings are determined, and what is it's effect on the tilt of the Earth's axis.

Many people have been asking (and, in this case, by 'many' I mean 'no', but, for the sake of this post, work with me, here) for a summary of the Motion Picture Association of America's film rating system. Of course, this system is highly confidential and incredibly subjective, so, instead, I'm just going to make something up and pass it off as a review of the rating system. First, though, let me make it clear: we're talking about the content rating assigned to most film's released in America, not the film rating system used to review films here at "The Frogs and Their King". That system is easy enough to sum up- All films with Jennifer Connelly- 100 quagillion machillion stars. Everything else- 0 stars. Now that I've made that distinction for the extremely defective among us, let us proceed.

The American film rating system is relatively simple. There are only a few rules that are followed in deciding what rating to assign to a film, and they go like this:

1. Does a film depict violence between humans, not limited to but including beatings, beheadings, shootings, manglings, bare-knuckle fighting, amputation, drownings, torturings, murder, burning alive, burying alive, hangings, car accidents, boat accidents, train accidents, plane accidents, cannibalism, tatooings, or general mayhem and madness? If so, it is rated PG-13.

2. Does a film depict any of the above, only directed towards a household pet? Then it is rated R.

3. Does a film depict naked female breasts used in an educational manner, such as showing tribal women using them for tribal purposes, like holding jugs of water or extra leaves and berries, or such as attractive twenty-somethings exposing them to teenage boys in the interest of anatomy? If so, the film is rated PG-13.

4. Does a film depict naked female breasts used in a non-educational manner? If so, and these non-educational breasts are on screen for less than 1 minute, the film is rated PG-13. More than a minute? Rated R, but the ticket-takers will look the other way if you're under-age but really have to see them, such as in the case of Halle Berry in 'Swordfish' or Jennifer Connelly in anything.

5. Does the film depict naked penguin breasts? If so, and they are not seen in a lecherous manner, the film will be rated G. If seen in a lecherous manner, then the film will only be released in Europe, Vermont, and certain parts of the Pacific Northwest.

6. Does the film depict full-frontal female nudity? If so, and it is someone you would enjoy seeing naked (ie, young Nicole Kidman, Jessica Alba, or Jennifer Connelly), then it may be rated PG-13 or R, depending on the intended studio demographics. If it is someone you would NOT enjoy seeing naked (ie, Kathy Bates, Charo, Divine), then it must be rated at least R, and must contain the mandated Surgeon General's warning.

7. Does the film depict a naked penis? If so, and it belongs to Bruce Willis, Kevin Bacon, or Harvey Keitel, then the film will be Rated R, but you will have to produce two forms of photo ID to get in an see it (such as a valid passport and a state issued ID), and you may be sorry that you did. If the penis belongs to anyone else, the film will be Rated XXX-17.

8. Does the film contain swearing? If so, and it the swearing you might hear from your 4th Grade teacher when she accidentally staples her index finger, such as 'poop', 'fart', 'damn', 'hell', 'criminy' or 'son-of-a-gun', then it may be rated G. If so, and it involves the slang name for a body-part found on a man, then it may be rated PG. If so, and it is the swearing you might hear from your grandmother during the early onset of dementia, such as '$h!t', 'g0d-d@mn' , 'p!$$', 'wh0re-faced j@ck@$$', or 's0n-0f-@-b!+ch', then it may be rated PG-13. If so, and it is the swearing you might hear from drunk sailors just arrested while on shore-leave, such as the 'f' word, the 'mf' word, the 'c' word, the 'n' word, or any words beginning with 'O' through 'W', then it will be rated R. Finally, if it's the kind of swearing you might hear between Hitler and the Devil during a 'yo momma' rank contest, the kind of words that, should I even think them, would melt the Internets, then the film will be not be rated, as several members of the ratings board are elderly and it may cause them heart problems. The only exceptions to all of the above are a) if any of the swearing is done by a penguin, the film will be rated G and b) if any of the swearing is done by an animated character, such as an ogre or a superhero, then the film will be rated PG.

9. Does the film have characters who smoke? If so, and it was made prior to 2006, it will be rated G. If so, and it was filmed after 2006, it will be rated NC-17.

10. Does the film include uncompromising adult subjects that, while not appropriate for children, also do not include hardcore, pornographic sex acts? Then the film will be rated NC-17 and will not be shown to anyone in any major theater chain or rented from major video rental stores, essentially dooming the film financially and in its impact. Sorry.

11. Was the film made in France? If so, it will be unrated, or, as they say in France, "le ratings non".

12. Was the film directed by Steven Spielberg? If so, it will be rated PG-13.

13. Did the film cost more than $100 million dollars to make and is being released between Memorial Day and Labor Day? If so, it will be rated PG-13.

14. All other films that do not fit in any of the above categories will be rated PG-13.

And that is how simple it is to decide the rating of a movie.

However, while it is extremely simple to assign the rating, due to the fact that there are over 3,267 possible ratings issued, the system itself if very complicated. Now, while I would be more than happy to list all 3,267 with a brief explanation of what they mean, I expect everyone else would be less than happy. Therefore, I will now provide the top 30 or so assigned ratings from the last few years.

'G'- 'Geek'- Only a geek would watch this movie
'GC'- 'Guidance Counseling'- You may need to visit the Guidance Counselor after seeing this movie.
'GP'- 'Gross Product'- This film cost more to make than the gross product of bottom third of the world's countries put together.
'PG'- 'Pussy Galore'- This rating is only given to James Bond films, or to certain, ah, shall we say, 'art' films that play in a continuous reel at that particular theater on the wrong side of town.
'PG-13'- 'Not Suitable for Anyone Who is Not Male or Over the Age of 13'- Most likely includes car chases, young women in various stages of undress, fighting robots, former professional football players, crotch-kicking, or old ladies dropping the 'f' bomb.
'PG-4' - 'Not Suitable for Anyone Over the Age of 4'- Usually reserved for 'Barney' films, penguin movies, or anything based on a greeting card line.
'PG-80' - 'Not Suitable for Anyone With an IQ Over 80'- Usually reserved for Uwe Boll films, or anything starring a Baldwin that is not Alec.
'PG-12mm' - 'Not Suitable for Anyone Not Carrying a Piece' Yo, anyone not packin' risks getting a cap busted in ya, dawg.
'PG-200m'- 'Please Gross 200 Million'- This film cost over 100 million dollars to make, and the studio who made it is politely demanding that all film goers see this within the first 5 days of release
'JC' - This is used on films that either star the stunning and amazing actress Jennifer Connelly or are religious dramas directed by Mel Gibson.
'BC' - This is used on really old films, such as those filmed on nitrate, 'Before Celluloid'.
'AM'- This is a film best seen on cable after drinking all night
'BM' - This is the rating given to Brett Ratner films. It would have been 'BR', but that was already being used by films with the primary setting of either the frozen Antarctic or the North Pole, such as penguin and Christmas films.
'BLT' - 'But Look at Total gross'- This is given to films that depend on the stupidity of the overseas market audiences to see a profit. This is also the rating given to Muppet films.
'BFF'- 'Based on French Films'- A subpar American remake of a barely interesting in the first place, pretentious French movie. Examples include 'Three Men and a Baby', 'The Birdcage', and 'Down and Out in Beverly Hills'. Examples do not include 'The Ring', 'The Grudge', or 'One Missed Call', which would all be rated 'BFJ', or 'Dark Water', which would be rated 'BFJ-JC',
'R' - 'Raunchy'- This is how you know, as a pre-teen, what films are worth watching on pay cable after your parents have dosed off.
'RR'- This film features a train, such as 'Silver Streak', 'Thomas the Tank Engine', or 'Throw Momma from the Train'.
'NC' - 'No Choice'- This is the rating issued to some big-name actor's vanity project that a studio feels it has to make, many times even allowing the actor to direct, in order to negotiate a starring role in next summer's tent pole release.
'NC-17' - 'Now Costs $17.00'- This is used for films shown in IMAX or digital 3-D formats.
'NC-$5'- 'No Change of more than $5.00'- This is the rating used when a theater till is running low on $1 bills.
'NC-100'- '100 uses of nunchucks'- This is given to kung-fu flicks
'NCNN' - This means that the audience would rather watch the news than the travesty the studio is trying to force on them.
'NLV'- This rating identifies a Chevy Chase 'Vacation' film.
'NSFW' - 'Nice Safe Family Watching'- Films with this rating are wholesome and affirming films for the whole family, and, whenever you see this included with an image online, it is a badge of honor that means you can download safely without worrying about inappropriate content, even in front of your boss at work or your girlfriend's parents.
'X' - This is the rating given to a film that includes penises.
'XXX' - This film has 3 times the penises as the previous rating. This is also the rating given to anything staring Vin Diesel.
'CCC'- This rating occurs when the ratings board meant to give a film an 'XXX', but miskeyed and was too embarrassed to correct it.
'NC-XINFINITY' - This film is not suitable for anyone, and no one will be admitted to the theater to see it. Films that have earned this rating include 'Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!', 'Basic Instinct 2', 'Gigli', and anything made by Tara Reid after 'American Pie', among others.
'Y785TGNBHJDJJJKKKKKKKKKKKKKK' - This is the rating given when a film is so uninteresting, it causes the ratings board to fall asleep on the keyboard.
' '- This is what it looks like when a film is not rated.

And now you know all about the content ratings system for American films, and you are prepared to go out into the world and randomly rate films, such as your sister's wedding videos, the video at the start of a commercial airline trip, the filmstrip shown in your 9th grade science class, or the dashboard camera recording of you failing a field sobriety test (hint: all but one of these examples contains penises). There is one thing to remember, though; the ratings system is not censorship, but, rather, exists to prevent certain people from seeing certain films based on the morals and decisions of a third party. With this lofty goal in mind, our ratings system has valiantly protected sensitive American's from seeing penises while allowing us access to the car crashes and murders that make up the backbone of our society. So the next time you see the rating on a film you are viewing, go ahead and applaud in thanks, or even run up and kiss the screen. At the most, the theater owner may call a police escort out to assist a person of your leadership qualities in moving out of the theater. At the very least, your performance will rate a solid "WTF".

Note- The preceding has been rated 'PPB' for 'Pitiful Pointless Blog' by the BRAA- the Blog Rating Association of America.

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